By Matt Williams
---- — MARBLEHEAD — The chill in the air, the thud of the shoulder pads and the tightness of the football game made the atmosphere at Piper Field feel like the playoffs.
The performance of Marblehead junior running Brooks Tyrrell might as well have made history.
Tyrrell ran for 260 yards and three scores, records in the Magicians’ brief gridiron playoff lore, to lead the hosts to a hard-fought 19-7 win over Masconomet in a Division 3 Northeast semifinal.
The key sequence came as Marblehead (8-1, playing the winner of today’s Tewksbury/Gloucester tilt in the D3Northeast final next weekend) faced 4th-and-2 at the Masco 45 with 4:00 to play and the score favoring the hosts, 13-7.
Coach Jim Rudloff’s defense had been outstanding to that point, stuffing Masco on both third and fourth and a chainlink at the Magaician 15-yard line earlier. He could’ve punted and put the game in their hands, but he wanted to win it outright.
“That was a pivotal moment for us as we move forward in the playoffs. Getting it would validate everything we’ve done and how far we’ve come as opposed to being safe and sneaking in the back door,” said Rudloff. “Spencer Craig told the guys this is what we worked out all summer for, this one play.”
Tyrrell, in the shotgun next to QB Matt Millett, took the handoff and saw a hole to his right. He raced through it in the blink of an eye, and a few gallops and 45-yards later he was in the end zone putting the game away and subsequently putting the Magicians in the sectional final.
“That’s Brooks. He had the option to cut back and we run outside so much that eventually teams will over compensate. He knows when to do it,” said Rudloff, whose tailback enjoyed his eighth 100-yard game of the season and second 200-yard effort.
“Brooks makes people who make mistakes look bad and he also makes the offensive linemen look good. The line stepped up in the second half and did some very good things.”
For Masco (5-4), the biggest plays were those short runs deep in Marblehead territory at the end of the third quarter. Senior Ben Rosembaum fell on a fumble one play after Craig’s sack stopped the Chieftains at the 31. That gave Masco the ball at the Marblehead 24-yard line in prime position to take the lead.
A host of Marblehead tacklers led by Liam Gillis and Will Millett had other ideas, turning the Chieftains over on downs by bursting over the line of scrimmage.
“They make the big plays,” said Masco coach Jim Pugh. “We saw No. 9 (Will Millett) lined up and we needed to get a body on him. We never got any offense established.”
“That was the only time they used a stack-I and I spent 60 hours preparing for that. They ruined my week,” Rudloff quipped. “But seriously, the kids were ready for that and there was no panic. I loved the way we played on defense.”
Masco’s Gavin Monagle actually intercepted Matt Millett with 8:18 to go, giving his team another chance to pull even or ahead with the score still 13-7. Marblehead’s defense forced another turnover on downs, however, this time outside the red zone.
“We still had a chance. The kids played hard,” said Pugh. “We’ve been talking about getting the pride back and we were proud of the effort.”
Mike MacKay had three sacks for the Chieftains and Harry Cwik caught four passes for 103 yards and a 61-yard score in the third quarter. He cut back across the field to go the distance and make it 13-7.
Matt Millett was limited to 48 yards passing by an excellent Chieftain pass rush and a secondary that came up with interceptions by Monagle two by Corey Tines. For Marblehead, Jeremy Gillis and Dylan Cressy had interceptions as the teams combined for seven turnovers.
Marblehead led 13-0 at the break as Tyrrell ran for a 53-yard score in the first quarter. Early in the second, he ripped off a 44-yard run to set up his own 4-yard scoring plunge.
For a while, it looked like Marblehead was going to pull away early. But the Chieftains made enough to plays to stay in it, and the long TD in the third quarter tightened things up in a hurry. Masco had the ball three times with a chance to take the lead in the second half.
“As a coach you seek perfection,” said Rudloff. “It’s hard to nitpick every week, but this isn’t nitpicking, this is the the playoffs. The type of football we played tonight can’t happen. It’s not good enough.”